Mikey Powell Campaign marks a decade of struggle

Tippa Naphtali & Sieta Lambrias - Sept 2013 by Saqib Deshmukh
Picture by Saqib Deshmukh

originally by: Larry Fedja
published: 13 September 2013

The family of Mikey Powell have commemorated his life 10 years after his death at the hands of West Midlands Police by holding a vigil outside the police HQ in Birmingham, and then an inspirational after-event at The nearby African Caribbean Millennium Centre.

Mikey Powell 10th and final annual memorial
The image gallery from the Mikey Powell 10th Memorial Vigil at West Midlands Police HQ, Birmingham. Held on 7th September 2013.

The Friends of Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice was established by the family of Michael Lloyd Powell (known as Mikey), a cousin of the renowned poet and writer, Benjamin Zephaniah, following his death in Police custody. Mikey was 38 years old and a father of three young children.

The police had previously dealt appropriately with one episode at the request of the family and were called again this time. This is what happened this time around – Officers drove a police car at Mikey, hitting him, beat him with a baton, CS gassed him, restrained him and, knowing he was injured, drove him to a police station not a hospital.

The community was outraged and angry that this could happen so suddenly to a law abiding citizen. This was reflected in a packed public meeting held in September 2003, and a march to Thornhill Road police station in November 2003. Over 500 people attended the protest and hundreds more lined the route.

The much talked about memorial event included talks from Powell family members acclaimed poet, Benjamin Zephaniah (cousin), Sieta Lambrias (sister) and Tippa Naphtali (cousin).

Other family members from Birmingham and London included Samantha & Marcia Rigg, (sisters of Sean Rigg), Jan Butler (Mother of Lloyd Butler) and Myrna Simpson (Mother of Joy Gardner). Several other family members were present representing Kingsley Burrell, Michael Bailey and Habib Ullah.

Radical filmmaker, Ken Fero of Migrant Media, gave the first preview of a new short documentary, ‘Po Po’ which featured the case of Jason McPherson, combined moving testimonies, poetry and a political analysis of state violence. Dark and disturbing, ‘Po Po’ suggests that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are complicit in the lack of successful prosecutions of police officers for deaths in their custody.

Speakers included the Powell family solicitor, Jane Deighton, who gave an update on the legal case. Matilda MacAttram from Black Mental Health UK, and Maxie Hayles a veteran Birmingham-based Campaigner and Activist.

Music and spoken word was provided by Oxford-based artiste trio Fio, RhymeSkeemz and Beneficial.

West Midlands Police also acknowledged the anniversary by issuing a formal letter of apology to Mikey’s mother, Claris Powell.

Tippa Naphtali, cousin of Mikey Powell, said:
“It is very important for people to understand that we have not accepted the apology from West Midlands Police without conditions. They are aware for example that this does not excuse their actions or compensate us in any way for the loss of our dear Mikey. They are also aware that we will continue to pursue the officers involved through the courts, and push for reform of police detention methods particularly in relation to vulnerable detainees”.

Benjamin Zephaniah, cousin of Mikey Powell said:
“An apology for the death of my cousin ten years after the event is cold comfort. We have been asking questions for ten years, protesting for ten years, writing letters, and poems, and statements for ten years, but most of all we have been collectively grieving for ten years. What is important is that we let it be known that although we accept this apology, we are intelligent enough to know that it is just an apology, and it is not justice.”

Sieta Lambrias, sister of Mikey Powell said:
“Whilst we appreciate the apology received by the WMP for the pain and anguish caused to my family as a consequence of Mikey’s death, we would be far more appreciative of an apology acknowledging that it was the actions of their officers that caused the death, as found by the inquest jury in 2009.”

Ken Fero – Filmmaker, said:
“Over the ten years of the struggle that this anniversary of the death of Mikey Powell marks it has been a real privilege to know and work with the family. Not only have they run an exemplary individual campaign on the legal and political fronts to get justice for Mikey, they have also worked to support other families that have experienced the brutality of a death in custody.

“They have shown resilience and insight and this has led to real change at different levels in the area. What all families want when they lose a loved one under these circumstances is fairness in the justice system and for those responsible to be punished. 10 years on Mikey can be proud that the unrelenting daily work, particularly of his cousin Tippa Naphtali, has made sure that Mikey’s death was not in vain”.

Saqib Deshmukh – Justice4Paps, said:
“It was an inspiring vigil and memorial meeting that really brought home the ten year struggle of Mikey Powell’s family against West Midlands police and the IPCC. Justice4Paps has been proud to stand with the family over the recent years and will continue to support the campaign as it moves forward. Our unity is our strength”.

Other News:

Family marks 10 years since the death of Mikey Powell
12 September 2013

Police say ‘sorry’ over dad’s death in custody
9 September 2013

Mikey Powell: Police apologise for ‘pain and suffering’ of family
7 September 2013

Ten years on, police apologise over the death of Mikey Powell
6 September 2013